Autistic Boy, Left Alone, Dies in Fire; Grandmother Charged

Woman left child while she went to deli down the street

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010  |  Updated 1:00 PM EDT
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Autistic Boy, Left Alone, Dies in Fire; Grandmother Charged

The child's grandmother was charged with reckless endangerment in connection with his death.

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An autistic child perished in a fire that he apparently set while he was left alone in a Brooklyn apartment, authorities say.

Melinda McLain, 59, left her grandson Tavon Turpin home alone while she walked down the street to a deli near their home in Coney Island, according to published reports.

In his grandmother's absence, the 11-year-old boy ignited a fire in a hallway closet. He was barely able to speak due to his disability, so couldn't cry for help, reports the Daily News.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and pulled a motionless Tavon from the 15th-floor apartment, but could not revive him. When McClain returned him, she saw the boy's body and broke down. Tavon was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.

Cops arrested McLain at the same hospital, where she was being treated for smoke inhalation and asthma, reports the News. They charged the grandmother with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Those who knew McClain describe the boy's death as a tragic accident. Neighbors said they often saw the pair walking to the bus stop before school. They described the grandmother as loving and devoted, and Tavon as a happy child.

"She loved that boy," Allen Pearsall told the News. "That little boy was this lady's life. None of us are perfect."
 
The name of McClain's attorney was not immediately on record Wednesday.

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